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Posts Tagged ‘calling’

The Weakness of Love

March 20, 2009 4 comments

There are times when the symbols, the dreams, the vision of our world comes crashing down. We look for God.

But He is silent.

Throughout much of the Bible He is silent. We can remember when He spoke the Word of Life that woke our heart to love. This Word came as a fresh spring, as pure joy, as heaven’s bounty. But then in the dire anguish of suffering: silence. Nothing. Where did He go?

We grope. We ache. We wonder. We grieve. We grow weary. We may even curse and shake our fist at the heavens. Or in the blinding grip of life’s struggles, we may simply turn away and look for lesser gods. The gods of technology. The gods of sexuality. The gods of spirituality and religion. We turn to gods of our own making for comfort and satisfaction.

Strangely, these self-made gods have real power. But the power is not freeing. It does not lead us to deeper and truer love. It stirs in us lust for power. Power to control. Power to protect.

I will never hurt again if I can control this situation, this person, the job, this group, this family, this church. We seek refuge in the slavery of other gods, other pharaohs.

Sadly, the gods of our making really do enslave us. Really do cut us off from the freedom of love. Enslaved by the passions, we can no longer love or be loved. We simply lust to consume, and so we are consumed. The gods of our making not only enslave, they eventually kill us. Our families may die. Our friendships may die. Our churches may die.

Everything we once held dear may be sacrificed to the idols of our making. Our beautiful homes are filled with beautiful furniture and broken people. Families, marriages, children that have been offered to the gods of our consumption, to the ravages of passion, to the coldness of convenience.

In the pain of great loss, we may brood and rage and then repeat our deadly rituals to new gods of death and indifference.

Into the darkness of our self made tombs, the shuddering silence pierces us. The Lord extends an invitation of freedom. He speaks to the entombed heart, “Come forth!” He does not invite us to a life void of suffering. We awake to a world where hurts still hurt and pain is still very real. And His Silence is still Present.

But instead of control. Instead of a method or a god to control the pain, we are asked to simply trust. Let go of control. Let go of trying to live pain free and sorrow free. Let go into the promise of God’s faithful love.

This complete love is revealed Word-made-Flesh. Jesus the God and King who embraces our suffering, who bears our sorrows, drinks full the cup of pain and suffering that floods our world. And yet, He continues to love. Hanging from the cross of shame, He looks upon those who are taking His life and cries out, “Father forgive them.”

Some suggest this was weakness. And that our God is weak and frail and the Creator of weaklings. They are right. It is weak but not powerless. There is power in brute force and power in absolute weakness.

Brute force requires someone else to sacrifice for my satisfaction. Brute force will master and control for a short season. But it is no match for the power of absolute weakness.

Jesus reveals the absolute weakness of love.

Love completely trusts the Lover and in so doing becomes all power and all glory and all wisdom and all strength both now and forevermore.

Following the call of Jesus, does not mean learning how to control this world and avoid all pain. It means trusting in the love of the Father. The unfailing love. In this mystery of trust, we might, by His great and wondrous grace, learn to love. We might become the true and complete images of God that have moved beyond the childlike power of creating and controlling to the uncontainable power of loving relentlessly.

Then the call of God and the cry of our soul become one: “Let me love God with all that I am and love other people with all that I am.” May love prevail in thought, words, deeds.

Have mercy Lord. We are weak. Make us weaker still.

As I wrote this meditation, I was think about a quote from a book I read several years ago called, The Heart of the World by Hans Urs Von Balthasar. I think this quote is worth reading and rereading as we traverse along the Lenten byways.

And now God’s Word saw that his descent could entail nothing but his own death and ruination—that his light must sink down into the gloom—he accepted the battle and the declaration of war. And he devised the unfathomable ruse: he would plunge, like Jonas into the monster’s belly and thus penetrate death’s innermost lair; he would experience the farthest dungeon of sin’s mania and drink the cup down to the dregs; he would offer his brow to man’s incalculable craze for power and violence; in his own futile mission, he would demonstrate the futility of the wolrd; in his impotent obedience to the Father, he would visibly show the impotence of revolt; through his own weakness unto death he would bring to light the deathly weakness of such a despairing resistance to God; he would let the world do its will and thereby accomplish the will of the Father; he would grant the world its will, thereby breaking the world’s will; he would allow his own vessel to be shattered, thereby pouring himself out; by pouring out one single drop of the divine Heart’s blood he would sweeten the immense and bitter ocean. This was intended to be the most incomprehensible of exchanges: from the most extreme opposition would come the highest union, and the might of his supreme victory was to prove itself in his utter disgrace and defeat. For his weakness would already be the victory of his love for the Father, and as a deed of his supreme strength, this weakness would far surpass and sustain in itself the world’s pitiful feebleness. He alone would henceforth be the measure and thus also the meaning of all impotence. He wanted to sink to low that in the future all falling would be a falling into him, and every streamlet of bitterness and despair would henceforth run down into his lowermost abyss.
No fighter is more divine than the one who can achieve victory through defeat. In the instant when he receives the deadly wound, his opponent falls to the ground, himself struck a final blow. For he strikes love and is thus himself struck by love. And by letting itself be struck, love proves what had to be proven: that it is indeed love. Once struck, the hate-filled opponent recognizes his boundaries and understands: behave as he pleases, nevertheless he is bounded on every side by a love that is great than he. Everything he may fling at love—insults, indifference, contempt, scornful derision, murderous silence, demonic slander—all of it can ever but prove love’s superiority; and the black the night, the more radiant does love shine.
Hans Urs Von Balthasar from “The Heart of the World”

Vision and Revelation

January 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Just a reminder – These are rough notes and subject to critique and refinement.

Revelation and Vision
By discussing stories, memory, songs, dance and art, I am both developing the roots of vision and the idea that the world we live in is an outward expression of a symbolic center. In the center of the world is an idea about what constitutes the world and the destiny/purpose of that world. No one symbolic center can fully express the depths of our lives on this planet, so symbols may change and develop over time as new depths are revealed the rooted of our purpose.

“Revealed” is the key. We do not simply make up a purpose or a vision or a history. It is a calling. We are called out of the darkness into the light. N.T. Wright suggests that conversion and calling are one and the same movement of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit penetrates our heart with the Word of God. (Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word.)

While Paul was a master of the Torah as a Pharisees, he actually “hears” the Word on the road to Damascus. At first, he doesn’t even recognize the Word until the Lord of the Word reveals Himself. This encounter, this calling is the unfolding of Paul’s conversion and faith in Jesus Christ. This faith continues to unfold and open by the Spirit of God, bringing revelation to Paul, which becomes the driving vision of his life.

Revelation might be understood as the Spirit of God unfolding the call of God in our lives through the Word of God. The Spirit of God is revealing the Word of God. As we behold Him, we are changed into His likeness. As He transforms in loving relationship, He gives us vision and purpose, a realization that like Paul we are called to reconcile the world to Christ.

Divine Revelation is the Father sending the Spirit to reveal the Son, changing us into His people, His family, His called out ones. As we meditate upon revelation and vision, we may begin to see this as part of the larger call and response between the Father and His people that spans time and space.

As Dmitrue Staniloae says, time and space give us two realms for movement toward love. All of history is the story of movement toward love. At the beginning of time, the Father’s call of love goes forth and the echo of God’s people returns that call back from the end of time. When Jesus goes to the cross and passes through death to life, He is answering the call of love from the end of time.

And now that call is being unfolded in His people and will be fully unfolded in the Bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the people of God who join Jesus at the Marriage feast, returning the call of Love.

The Power of Vision

January 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Last week at our monthly idea night, I asked the group a simple question. “Where does vision come from?” This launched into fascinating discussion on the source of vision. So I thought I’d post some of our notes about where do we find vision? But first, I might suggest, why do we need vision.

Vision is a source of energy. When I set out to write a few words on vision, I have some picture in my wind of what I might write and where I might post it, I have some picture of the value of capturing my thoughts. These pictures are aspects of vision. Without them, why should I write? If it doesn’t mean anything and has no purpose, why really waste my time.

When I used a child, I used to imagine being a famous magician. This dream translated into practicing magic tricks, performing for the neighborhood kids and eventually earning pay for my performances. The vision of performing gave me energy to act. I performed magic all the way through college, but gradually my magic shows sudsided. But oddly the vision of performing was translated into theatrical performances, public speaking, preaching, a radio talk show and so on.

Somehow the vision tapped something deeper inside of me that has been translated in a variety of ways. Vision fuels us to the next step. The Scripture says that “without a vision the people perish” or cast off restraint. With vision, we lost our momentum to move forward. Some folks lose vision as a result of failure or loss. Their momentum can slow to a hault. We sometimes call it depression.

A young person who has not experienced many bitter disappointments, should be rich in vision. They are pure energy and are ready to give their mind and body to service. Some kind of service. Any kind of service. Their passion may find release in music, concerts, mission trips, Peace Corps, politics and so on. Over time, disappointment and failure may sap them of vision.

At some point vision changes places with memory. As people grow older, they feed on the joy of good memories. Many older people are no longer trying to make a mark in the world, they are simply enjoying the fruit of their labor. This is what makes the prophet Joel’s words so power. He says that your old men will dreams. Instead of simply looking back, they will begin looking forward with expectancy.

But what about all the visions that fail? I think that it might be possibly to analyze our old abandoned visions and learn from them. Much like a floor of deflated balloons, the old visions lie just beneath the surface of our hearts. I begin writing down every vision I could ever remember from childhood onward. I’ve begun to notice that some visions passed by the wayside, they contained aspects of of dreams and visions. In other words, one vision may have given me energy to step forward in one direction but in the action the vision morphed into something slightly different.

I see a variety connecting points in all these visions that relate to some basic drives and desires that seem essentially part of my core. This is actually helping me to clarify and consider the vision and dreams that currently drive me forward. Are these drives and longings from within? Possibly. But they may also be from without. In other words, whether we realize it or not, we may be responding to a call from beyond us: a call from the creator of our souls.

On Gifts and Calling

October 24, 2008 2 comments

In my wistful moments, I’ve dreamt of being a poet. And in the gentle mornings hours, there’ve been times when that dream took form in words and cadence and poor articulations from a voice that longs to speak something real in iron and stone.

But my poetic voice comes and goes, and I realized at some point that while I delighted in the expression, my writing was not great art. But rather scribblings of soul trying to follow in faltering steps a call that haunts me.

I once dreamed of speaking to large crowds who would sway and fall under the weight of my words. But those large crowds have often taken form in a handful of folks in my living room or in one friend during an extended lunch.

It seems that when God called me, He called me out from the successful and ever-growing church as I knew it, and into the lonely quiet of caves (better known as cubicles).

For a season I fought this exile by reminding myself that my intellect would one day reap great acclaim from audiences far and near. Over time, I’ve come to realize that I know far less than most people and understand even less of what I know. My only formal training was rhetoric, and I am a dismal failure as a rhetorician.

Whether in writing or speaking or thinking, I’ve come to peace with the limitations of my abilities and opportunities. And yet, following Chesterton’s advice, I continue to delight in all three because “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

Every so often I am reminded of the gifts and calling that I bear. Rather than being called to soar to great heights of profound erudition, I’ve been given the simple gifts of laughter and tears.

These are the two small gifts that I can give to the world. As I grow older, the tears fall more and more easily and often in embarrassing moments (when I would like to restrain). And oddly enough, I might be unaware of the laughter if it were not for people turning there heads toward the sound of my voice.

It is in laughter and tears where I am most vulnerable and most human. The sheer joy of being alive is not something I actively cultivate but something that overflows as a gift from the Father above. And that joy only stops when I fill the well with dirt because of my own pains and self-focus.

The tears flow as reminders that I live and breathe and enjoy as gift gracious gift from my Father above.

In the quietness of this moment, I am fully aware that beside the gifts of laughter and tears, I offer little to the world around me. And I am at peace with God’s grace working in the midst of that. Yet I know that a few hours from now, I will struggle once again with longing for respectability and honor and glory from the people around me.

By God’s grace, I would pray that I “would not think of myself more highly than I ought” but rest in the form which the Lord Himself has created and called forth into His glory. And may I live but for the word and blessing and acceptance from my good and gracious Lord.

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